News

712 East Sixth St Abutters Meeting in a Nutshell

Over 75 neighbors gathered in the cold air in front of a three-decker at 712 East Sixth Street to oppose a proposal for a new 44 foot, three-story addition to the back of the building.  In attendance was John Allison from the mayor’s office, Steve Harvey (he does it all Miss Universe, Family Feud, his talk show) from Michael Flaherty’s office, one of the developers Matt O’Hara and his lawyer.  Evidently, because of the new zoning laws, the project falls within the regulations (Article 68) but the project still needed to have an abutters meeting and the Zoning Board of Appeals because of An Interim Planning Overlay District (IPOD).  What’s an IPOD – well, it helps ensure development projects seeking approval in the near future meet the goals of the longer-term planning or rezoning process – rather than outmoded development patterns.
Important but slightly boring background information:
Last November Article 68 expanded to all of South Boston.  This was intended to stop systemize new development rules that would be fair to neighborhood residents, property owners, and developers.  The new zoning hoped to level the development playing field by regularizing the rules to allow for reasonable growth, while at the same time eliminating the need to resort to variances and the unpredictability of the zoning appeal process. Article 68 bascially eliminated minimum lot size requirements and replaced previously existing low-density use restrictions  with a single all-encompassing multifamily district. And here’s the loophole – large lots, where development had been limited by use or minimum lot size requirements, can  now become the sites for development projects that don’t really fit in the neighborhood.  i.e. the house on M Street.  From this example, City Councilor At-Large Michael Flaherty urged the Boston Planning and Development Agency to create the IPOD –“ in order to subject certain higher unit count proposed projects to increased public review, while your staff assesses the strengths and weaknesses of Article 68 as implemented.” Sort of like a neighborhood watch dog.
Well, these neighbors are watching.  Residents voiced concerns over things like overcrowding, potential noise on the decks, and lack of sunlight the addition would create. But the overall consensus was that this could cause a chain reaction with other homeowners building out the last bit of square inch.  No more yards.  Every bit of open space could potentially be built upon.  There was a question about parking to which the developer informed that he would be renting the units not selling them.  When asked what he would be getting for rents, he said he hadn’t thought about that yet.  (Oh really?)  Another concerned resident asked if the developers would be making the building into a huge Airbnb.  Hmmmm…..
One neighbor who lives at 706 East Sixth read a lovely letter that she wrote about how wonderful the neighborhood is and how it’s made up of hard working people who look out for one another and by adding on this giant addition it would ruin the neighborhood.  “Is it too much to ask for some open space a few trees,” she asked.  The crowd applauded the woman and the developer just shook his head.
Another neighbor threw his hands up in despair and asked why do we even have these meetings if nothing is going to change.  The developer and his lawyer said new plans would be filed with the ISD and the plans would have less bedrooms than originally proposed but it would still be the same size.  (Umm….thanks for nothing.)
John Allison from the mayor’s office informed the residents that the mayor’s office would not support the IPOD the way it is now.  So now we wait.  If you oppose or support this project you are encouraged to let your voice be heard.  You can email John Allison at john.allison@boston.gov
In other IPOD news.  Two single families at 15 and 17 Swallow Street were demolished without proper notification to the abutters.  Which is a huge no-no!  The IPOD may have been in effect when the permit was issued for the project which means at the very least an abutters meeting should have been conducted.  And the abutters should have been informed about demolition.  Well, what can be done now? Nothing! The houses are gone and the developer wants to put two four-story townhouses with parking – and for aesthetic reasons, the developer is asking the City of Boston to move a fire hydrant. Honestly?  More to follow on this.

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About the Author

Maureen Dahill

Maureen Dahill is the editor of Caught in Southie and a lifelong resident of South Boston sometimes mistaken for a yuppie. Hockey mom, yoga enthusiast, lover of red wine and binge watching TV series. Mrs. Peter G. Follow her @MaureenCaught.

Comments

  1. Thanks for writing this up. I feel like these projects, ordinances, etc. are not well communicated which increases the angst level – maybe it’s a tactic that has been used to move these projects forward without neighborhood interference. Anyway, this just seems like another example of the city steamrolling the neighborhood (especially the demolitions in your story), but that’s what this city does. Year after year. I can’t understand why the city of Boston has such contempt and disregard for its residents. For those fighting the good fight, you’re to be applauded.

  2. Thanks for writing. It’s crazy what the current zoning laws allow. We need to speak up and email our elected officials and the zoning board or Southie won’t have any open space left.

    • Weren’t those zoning laws voted on by the residents just a few years ago? It’s funny how people are so quick to vote but never actually end up informing themselves. The result is where we are today, I guess.

      I personally think that if you own land in this town, so long as that land is zone for whatever you’re trying to do, you should be able to do whatever you want with that land. There’s even this formal committee called the BPDA that goes through your proposal and makes sure people are following the rules (crazy I know).

      Just because you’re a neighbor and your window has been looking out onto that neighbors yard, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to maximize their use of their own land. That’s something you should have thought about when you bought the home.

  3. It doesn’t seem to matter if there are height restrictions , Zoning laws, parking space requirements etc.. I used to go to the neighborhood meetings when something was being proposed… but no more.. I feel that it is a complete waste of my time and the pols and the devellopers are in bed together.. A few new buildings are nice but Southie is now in overkill mode..

    • I truly don’t understand why some people think they are the arbiter of what is “enough” development. What if I thought there wasn’t enough development? This is why we have property rights and relative freedom as to what we are able to do with our property. Just because you don’t think someone should do something doesn’t mean we should use force of government to prevent them from doing it.

  4. I’m not sure what letting John Allison know about your opposition really does in these instances. The system is so crooked that he basically gets paid to make you think your opinion matters but in fact it is meaningless. Even if he DOES come out and say to the Zoning Board of Appeal that the mayors office “is against” something it typically just means they are doing it to keep the votes of the people who objected (when there are alot of them and/or it’s a high profile case in the media) and then the ZBA just grants the appeal to the developer (always a big donor ) and everyone comes away from the party with what they want….except the people of South Boston. It’s a scam of the highest order.

    • I’m glad we don’t rely on majority rule to govern what I can do with my property. It is NIMBYs that keep supply low and prices rising higher and higher. Some zoning is appropriate but the idea that, with a huge lot, you can’t build is ridiculous. Almost every property pushes against (3 feet) the property lines of others.

      • I’m in agreement with Other Steve. So long as what you’re trying to do is within the rules OR you get a variance/special perment/etc. you should be able to do whatever is allowed. Just because your grouch of a neighbor doesn’t want to hear construction (EVER in their life, almost as if they’ve never heard construction before) doesn’t mean you should be barred from doing whatever it is you like.

        The amount of boomers who live in Southie and don’t understand the concept of supply & demand is truly mind blowing and borderline sad. Sometimes I think they just hate change and want to live out the rest of their lives with their environment in a permanent stasis.

  5. Steve (other)..i don’t think you get it..we have zoning law (. REAR YARD SETBACKS,SIDE YARD SET BACKS,HEIGHT RESTRICTIONS, FLOOR TO AREA RATIOS..ECT)…often in large and small projects the developer VIOLATES these zoning regulations..and the board of appeals GRANTS VARIANCES..you can do with your property ALL YOU WANT..HOWEVER NO VARANCES..OK

    • I don’t think you read the story I am commenting on. You can’t do anything close to ‘all you want’, you can barely do anything at all. I understand setbacks and FAR ratios but in this case the building MET ZONING AND DIDN’T NEED VARIANCES but was brought in front of the ‘Interim Planning Overlay District (IPOD)’ anyways. Zoning is set up so almost every single building needs to be brought before the community tribunal. In doing all of this you spend thousands on lawyers and architectural revisions and spend months to years wrapped up in the zoning process. If these guys want to build on the land they own and meet all of the variances they should be able to build – they shouldn’t be put on trial like they currently are.

      The woman in the story who said, “Is it too much to ask for some open space a few trees,” should buy the land and plant trees on it. When she puts her money where her mouth is then she can talk about forcing others to do it on their own land.

  6. Also, crazy take here…but in theory this addition to this unit will add maybe a bedroom or two? So that means someone who could possibly be competing for the same unit as me in the future, now won’t be. Resulting in possibly a lower price for me (rent or sale). I don’t have a car so I won’t be affected by the parking, the T is already miserable so what’s another few people? For me, more units = more money in my wallet.

  7. My god. If you could all just stop your bickering for a moment…

    The gentrification train is moving full steam ahead. It can’t be stopped…no, it can’t be. That said, you have three choices. Lead, follow, or get the heck outta the way.

    Your choice, folks.

  8. Does “GENTRIFICATION ” give the developers the right to buldoz a community? I have lived here my whole life, OVER 65 years. The train is moving..and I’m GONNA SLOW IT DOWN..via IPOD article 68 ..ENOUGH IS ENOUGH !!

    • It is not your community. Doesn’t matter if you’ve lived here 65 years or 6. A community is made up of the people and property that composes it. Developers don’t destroy the community, owners happily sell their property at a nice profit and the developers put housing in it that incoming people actually want to live in. The makeup of the community is changing. Good luck with all of your kicking and screaming.

      • Well said, Steve. I don’t understand the logic behind it. “YOUR” neighborhood? Ok, pal!

        Times change. Get with the program people!

  9. Yea, the reason they want to live here is because people like me my neighbors made this place what it is…You obviously are a YUPPIE, complete with your DOGS , lots of mouth..TYPICAL YUPPIE !!

    • There he goes again…”MY neighborhood”. Bro…stop! Keep this up, and I will start calling it MY neighborhood. You don’t want that…trust me.

    • “made this place what it is”… so you and your neighbors shoveled all the dirt that makes up this land? Because quite frankly Southie really isn’t that great…it’s just the best value for the proximity to city center when you compare it to the North End, South End, Beacon Hill, Back Bay or Seaport.. So, when you can explain how you were responsible for Southie’s proximity to the city center, I’ll be here listening.

  10. Yeah, living here NOW, how long before you pack your bags and head to the Lilly white surburbs..just another “IMPORT” with porta mouth..